As per usual, there wasn’t much Giants news this week. And unlike last week, there wasn’t a major MLB scandal to discuss, unless you’re really, really upset about Derek Jeter falling one vote short of a unanimous first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame. (Me: If the Babe and the Say Hey Kid weren’t unanimous, neither should Jeter be. C’mon, seriously?!)
Nonetheless, Saturday always comes (thank God for that!), and my blog duties awaited, so thanks to a tip from Kodachrome, I looked up and listened to interviews with Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler on KNBR. Together with last week’s podcast interview by Henry Schulman with GM Scott Harris, we have the latest version of The World According to #SFG (Scott, Farhan, Gabe).
I’ve done the listening work so that you don’t have to, but a good academic always cites her sources, and readers can go check for themselves.
Scott Harris, interviewed by Henry Schulman, aired 1/16/20
Farhan Zaidi, interviewed by Larry Krueger, aired 1/21/20
Gabe Kapler, interviewed by Murph & Mac, 1/22/20
I discussed the Harris podcast last week, so I’ll focus instead on the two more recent interviews. What follows is my own take on what I heard.
- Don’t expect much/any more in the way of substantial additions to the Giants roster. OK, Zaidi didn’t actually say that, and he arguably contradicted himself as he went along. Early in the interview, he said that there were “still good players out there” who could be signed. But if you listened carefully–and it was a 38-minute podcast, so there was a lot in there–he cited Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, and Stephen Vogt as examples of players who sparked the Giants’ July run last season and who also were obtained on waiver claims or minor league deals. He went on to hint that any further acquisitions before camp opens may also be on minor league deals (more on that below).
- Both Zaidi and Kapler are really committed to young players getting a true shot. This is not just a cover story for why they’re not spending money. Zaidi mentioned that it’s hard to get free agent hitters to sign with the Giants because of the ballpark, so committing heavily to the development of young sluggers is the best long-term plan. Specifically, they talked about players like Mauricio Dubon (Zaidi), Chris Shaw (Kapler), and Jaylin Davis (both) not only getting good coaching–Davis has been in Arizona working with the Giants’ hitting staff all winter–but also getting legitimate major league reps. My sense is that they believe in Dubon and Davis more than they do in Shaw, but they definitely want to see what these hitters who’ve had success in the minor leagues can do. He also mentioned Tyler Rogers finally getting an opportunity and how inspiring that was to the Sacramento River Cats’ clubhouse (reportedly they were all around the TV watching Rogers’ debut with the Giants). More on the “young guys getting reps” in point 4 below.
- Zaidi likes to have legitimate competition in spring training. He mentioned that a lot of guys were brought into camp last year on minor league deals–he specifically named Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, and Yangervis Solarte–rather than major league deals. Why is that important? Not just the obvious (saves money/preserves flexibility) but because it gives the young players in camp the message that they have a true shot at making the major league roster if they work hard and perform–a message they wouldn’t hear or believe if too many veterans are brought in as free agents on guaranteed major league contracts.
- There was some indirect shade thrown on the previous regime. This is just my opinion based on what I heard, and I don’t actually think either Zaidi or Kapler consciously meant to disrespect Bruce Bochy, his coaching staff, or the previous front office. But Zaidi and Kapler talked about Davis and Shaw struggling when they got to the major leagues because they only got sporadic reps after playing everyday in the minors and had to face “nasty relievers” as pinch-hitters off the bench. This is something I always wondered about with Bochy and how he used young players, so it was interesting to hear people who actually know what they’re talking about saying it, too. Kapler also talked about his large and youthful coaching staff, saying that he’s hoping they’ll “bring energy into the clubhouse” and that having such a large staff will keep any of them from getting spread too thin (and thus keeping the energy level up). Again, it seemed an indirect comment on the, let’s face it, long-in-the-tooth staff Bochy has had over the years.
- Kapler isn’t really as weird as some stories want to paint him. Murph and Mac asked about the crazy stories about his diet (spitting out a lick of ice cream, peeling the skin off 40 Chicken McNuggets), and he laughed and said those had happened a long time ago. He said he tries to eat right most days but enjoys a pizza or a beer (or a meal in Chinatown, where he goes on walks from his apartment in North Beach) just as much as the next person. His exercise regime sounds normal and healthy for a guy in his 40s–weight training, sprints, and long walks (no Peloton). He did admit to having meetings with players in his office with soft lighting (candles) and maybe “a glass of wine” but also said that depends on the mood and nature of the conversation.
- Kapler has spent the winter traveling around the country to meet with players. He went to Boston to hang out with Shaw and Yaz and to Florida to see Shaun Anderson, Andrew Suarez, and Dereck Rodriguez. He also has met with guys who live in the Scottsdale area like Brandon Crawford (maybe on one of Kapler’s “cheat days”–OK, kidding. He didn’t say that!) I remember Steve Kerr did that after being hired following the controversial firing of Mark Jackson. He even went all the way to Australia to meet Andrew Bogut. The Warriors won the NBA Championship in Kerr’s first year as coach and went to the Finals five straight years, so that is not a bad example to follow. For different reasons, the transition from Bochy to Kapler has been just as turbulent as the one from Jackson to Kerr.
- Zaidi is very excited about the young talent in the system. He described Joey Bart as “a men among boys” in the Arizona Fall League, but he and Krueger mainly talked about very young international prospects such as 3B Luis Toribio, Luis Matos, Jairo Pomares, and Alexander Canario. He feels that the Giants have definitely righted their ship in terms of acquiring top international talent over the last few years. Krueger asked him what he thought about eight of the top-10 Giants prospects on the latest Baseball America list being position players, and that’s when Zaidi mentioned how important it is to grow your own hitters if you’re the Giants.
Anyway, some good stuff to chew on as we head into February and camps opening. We should have low expectations as to major roster additions (I think we already knew that, right?), but it could be fun to see what these new young coaches can do with the young players. As for the veterans…well, Kapler has a high opinion of Longoria (they were teammates in Tampa Bay in 2008-09) and thinks he had a good year in 2019. He also has high hopes for Yaz to have as good a year as he did in 2019 and maybe better.
Top-100 Prospects lists
‘Tis the season. The Baseball America list came out this week, and the Giants have three top-100 prospects, down from the four they had midseason 2019: Marco Luciano (#19), Joey Bart (#32), and Heliot Ramos (#63). Hunter Bishop was #98 in the midseason list but dropped off this time. Bishop, Canario, Matos, and Seth Corry were all listed as receiving top-100 votes. Not bad, really.
The MLB.com top-100 list will be revealed today live on MLB Network (3 p.m. Eastern). I’d guess at least the same three players will be on the MLB list and maybe one more (Bishop or Corry or Canario?).
MLB Network has also been airing its “Top Ten Right Now” shows, and you’ll be stunned to hear that so far no Giants player cracked any of the lists (all three OF positions and 1B). Our Mike Yaz did, however, make the Shredder’s “just-missed” list for RF, which I thought was impressive, given that he didn’t even make his major league debut until May 25. I don’t think we can expect any top-10 appearances by Giants except possibly for Buster Posey on the catchers list, and even that’s no sure thing. Posey has been #1 many times, and his defense still graded well last year, but…
So that’s all the news fit to print on this quiet weekend before the Super Bowl edition. Hope you enjoyed it. Lefty out.